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[Let's read] Dragon magazine - Part two: Gimme some Moore

So, how am I doing so far?


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(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 189: January 1993


part 4/6


The role of books: The spirit ring by Lois McMaster Bujold gets one of those mixed reviews that results from their being lots of good elements, but not enough tying them together into a coherent whole. Stick to one or two main characters and plots! Someone get that woman a stricter editor.

Mage's blood and old bones, edited by Elizabeth Danford & Mickael A Stackpole is a collection of Tunnels & Trolls short fiction. It retain the playful trope subversion that AD&D has mostly lost by this point, and has some nice background notes and essays along with the fiction.

Tales of Talislanta, edited by Stephan Michael Sechi doesn't get such a good review. It's a mixed bag, many of which aren't very good, and no overall picture of the game world really emerges. Meh.

The price of the stars, by Debra Doyle & James D Macdonald gets a very positive review indeed. High speed sci-fi, full of action sequences that would require a huge budget to represent on screen, and characters that still have distinct likeable personalities, it sounds like a star wars beater. Oh, if only commercial success followed quality. Someone remind george lucas he needs other people to write decent dialogue.

Out of nippon by Nigel Findley embraces the genre switching nature of the TORG setting. Unfortunately, this involves him sticking too closely to the genre formulas of the various sections, and the whole thing feels like it was written on autopilot. Which is a shame, since his short fiction work here was so good. I guess it becomes just a job for everyone eventually.

Best destiny by Diane Carey is a star trek novel that does surprisingly well. Kirk as a young man is as rebellious and impetuous as you'd expect, and the plot manages to be much less shiny than the series while not betraying the details. It is of course probably completely invalidated by the reboot.

Quantum leap, the novel by Ashley McConnell is another one that actually benefits from it's new format, with the ability to get inside the heads of the characters in their odd situations and challenges working quite well. It's also very handy for providing extra details that would be useful if you wanted to make an RPG around the quantum leap premise.

In an amusing footnote, we also find out that Laurel K. Hamilton has done a Star trek: TNG book. Didn't know that before. Oh, the slashfic crossover images that one raises. :devil: Oh Data! I never knew you were that modular and extendable!


Bazaar of the Bizarre: A bunch of primitive focussed items here. Just because they live out in the jungle in mud huts, doesn't mean they can't make stuff. In fact, chances are they can do it cheaper, by hunting down the ingredients they need directly. Underestimate them at your peril.

Headdress of peaceful conflict are another way to smooth out your encounters with faerie folk. Unlike our last two items with that theme, if you play in bad faith it stops working. Oh come on. Since when do fae play fair? Turnabout is only what they deserve.

Spirit skulls warn the shaman of non-natives and have a load of other divinatory powers. You can fill in the rest of the visuals pretty easily.

Ointment of mage-smelling lets you know how powerful other spell-casters around you are. Sniffing around people may raise suspicion, of course, but you can probably play that down as part of your savage nature, especially if you're meeting them on home turf.

Drums of menace spread ominous rhythms through the jungle well away from you. This gives a fairly substantial advantage to the home team in hit and-run combat, for the paranoia does not make you any better at spotting real threats. It doesn't have a save either, so it's pretty powerful.

Powder of images is another basic divinatory effect refluffed for cultural appropriateness. Do we really need this kind of basic handholding?

A Rattle of Exorcism is the shamanic variant on sprinkling holy water around the place and reciting from the bible. It takes aaages to work though, in which any demon worth their salt'll do something nasty to them. What works on tv doesn't work in D&D dear.

Masks of stealth let you pick locks, and make people think you fit in anywhere, even if all you're wearing is a loincloth and the mask. It's only useful if you're engaging in actions suitable to a nature connected primitive though. You get corrupted by materialism, and you're out the club. Captain planet, he's our hero! Yeah, this collection seems to have rubbed me the wrong way rather. It can go back in the pile.
 

lionrampant

Registered User
Validated User
Mage's blood and old bones, edited by Elizabeth Danford & Mickael A Stackpole is a collection of Tunnels & Trolls short fiction. It retain the playful trope subversion that AD&D has mostly lost by this point, and has some nice background notes and essays along with the fiction.
Even if you don't care about Tunnels & Trolls as a game, this is quite a good fantasy fiction anthology.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 189: January 1993


part 5/6


Completing the complete bard: So they're finally bringing kits to the magazine in earnest. It's been 4 years, and we've only got one set before? Dear oh dear. I guess spells got the same treatment. The editors really have had to work to get people to submit stuff fitting the new edition's format. Anyway, this is another positive step forward. At least, it will be if they're any good. :p

Dandys are a bard tailored version of swashbucklers, complete with fiaty special benefits and hindrances that'll be purely DM dependent. And looking at the math, they'll turn out completely inferior to them mechanically after 3rd level or so. Unless you don't have the str to take that kit, avoid this one like the plague.

Outlaws are somewhat better, sacrificing legend lore, countersong and rally allies for increased thief skills and underworld contacts. This is probably a negative trade overall in terms of raw power, but not so much that it's completely untakable. Many people don't bother with those froofy knowledge skills anyway. Still, these two aren't as interesting or effective as the ones from the actual book. You're not missing anything by leaving them out.


Forum: Steven Roemer has found his game has died because his players felt they'd seen and done it all, to epic levels and back. No amount of supplements and worldhopping could freshen it up. So they've had to move onto other roleplaying games. They'll be back. :steeples fingers: just you wait. Sooner or later some of them'll get the nostalgia bug.

Robert J. Letts points out just how annoying Stoneskin is when the party wizards buff everyone up with it every chance they get. Oh yes, this is one that runs and runs, isn't it. Little pebble, big avalanche. Which is ironically a good way to deal with stoneskin. Lots of little hits are much better than one big one. Muahahahaha.

Sally A. Haynes is yet another person annoyed by the sexism problem. It should make no difference who you are and what your character is. And things like separate directories are just patronising. No thanks.

Amaryllis Roy takes another swipe at the ludicrous cheesecake outfits. Come now, have you seen the impractical things women wear in real life. I wonder if Dragonmirth'll ever have something like that, with Alias and Neeva watching a crystal ball together and commenting on modern fashion.

Malcom Wolter points out once again how generous TSR modules are with awarding magical items compared to the theoretical recommendations in the books. It's no wonder PC's can smoke enemies of equivalent level without too much trouble and monty haulism gets out of hand easily unless the DM makes conscious efforts to stop it. VE NEED STRICTER EDITORIAL COORDINATION! ACHTUNG! Yeah, this is a big problem, as I've found before. It's much easier if you don't use prefab stuff though.


Sage advice continues to face questions about the rules quirks of dark sun.
What stops a cleric from becoming an elemental. (Improper planning of your career path. One wrong level and you're gimped forever. And you thought we'd got rid of that when we revamped bards. It's even worse than prestige classes.)

Things you said would be in Dragon kings aren't! (Skip may be The Sage, but Skip still can't see the future reliably. Those bloody writers are always rewriting destiny at their whim. Plays merry hell with continuity, let me tell you. )

Do Dragons and Avangions take damage from psionic enchantments (yes)

The stats of The Dragon, and their general stats don't match up. (Hmm, should Skip shake down the writer, or the editor? Skip thinks Skip'll bang their heads together until their brains are all mixed up. That'll make sure they communicate properly with each other next time.

Avangions have contradictory stats in different parts of the book as well. ( Oh, for fucks sake. How the fuck is Skip supposed to be the fucking source of all fucking knowledge when all the fucking books are fucked up! Guess Skip'll just have to play fucking rewriter afuckingain. )

Can avangions and dragons hurt each other physically (They're monsters now, and they have way more than 10+4 HD, so they can hurt anything which needs +4 weapons or less. This is pretty handy)

Can Dragons use the special attacks other dragons get (Probably)

How do high level avangions cast spells with no limbs (Magic. That's the way to solve everything.)

I think some of the new psionic powers are in the wrong discipline. ( Could be. That's the trouble with edge cases. Someone's gotta draw a line, and not everyone's gonna agree wit that. )

Dragon kings messed up the gladiator advancement table. (So it did. Ignore that. It means nothing)

What happens to your wild talent when you switch to psionicist to become an advanced being. (you get to keep it, thanks to Skip's generosity. )

Why does Ranis Inilka get spells when Athasian bards don't (More writer incompetance. I dunno. We set you these incredibly strict rules for module submissions in the magazine, and then we give commissions to writers who break every one of them with impunity and still get rehired. Life aint fair. )

You make too many game worlds! (We certainly don't think so. If anything, Skip thinks we don't make enough! And as long as you keep buying our stuff, we will continue to produce more. Isn't that nice of us.)
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 189: January 1993


part 6/6


Dragonmirth faces more problems, and sometimes solves them. Yamara gets traded to the drow. Twilight empire gets very weird indeed.


Through the looking glass: Last month Rick gave Battlemasters a slightly sniffy review. It might be alright for those common folks, but not for me. Robert, on the other hand is a lot more enthusiastic, as befits someone who's more invested in getting new people into minis gaming. The quality of the minis is good, and they're easily adapted to other games, with their multifigure bases working well to represent large groups of monsters economically. He rather enjoys the game aspects too, going into rather more description of the details of the mechanics. This is an amusing contrast. I quite approve. Which side are you on?

We also get a similarly positive review of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. The new edition is clearer and more complete, filled with more than enough minis to get you going, and a catalog to make it easy to decide what supplements you'd like. Games workshop really are a smoothly oiled machine, whether on their own or collaborating with other companies. It's no wonder they survived when the other wargaming companies fell by the wayside. Control the distribution and the games played with your products, multiply your creative freedom and take of the profits. Be your own master.

Our other minis this month are a pair of dragons, Bronze and Flame. Some assembly is required for both. And a bunch of dwarf signallers. I suspect they may actually be overweight gnomes.


TSR Previews: No particular game line gets to shine hugely above the others this month. Al-Qadim has ALQ2: Assassin Mountain. Another slimline boxed set, this is another one you can use as a homebase if you have an assassin PC, or as an ultradungeon to overthrow. If one of the characters is secretly a holy slayer, you can have double the fun. Muahahaha!!!

Spelljammer completes the trifecta of crossover with SJR7: Krynnspace. Now if there's a world that's hostile to interplanar interlopers (apart from the gnomes, weirdly enough) it's this one. Buncha hicks. Leave them to their petty squabbles about good and evil.

Greyhawk gets WGR4: The Marklands. See one of the most war torn areas of Oerth close up, discover the personal cost of the recent conflict.

The Forgotten realms finally follows Dragonlance into the short story business. Realms of Valor has lots of familiar names in the credits, but no detail on the actual stories. Any opinions on this one?

Speaking of Dragonlance, they return to doing trilogies. The Covenant of the Forge is the first of three focussing on the dwarven nations. Well, elves got a load of love last year. The equal heights commission would go mad if they didn't, despite elves being more popular.

Plenty of generic stuff though. DMGR5: Creative Campaigning helps you vary and spice up your games. We can always do with one of these, if only as a checklist to make sure you aren't forgetting something obvious you already know. HHQ3: Thieves challenge is another solo module. You'd better have jacked up the right thief skills if you want to do well here. And finally, the Magic Encyclopedia gets it's second volume. Now you have hundreds more items easily referenceable for the enjoyment of players and DM's.

D&D finally gets a GM's screen of it's very own. Like novels, it's curious that they haven't bothered with that, when AD&D's been doing them for ages, with several different ones for the various campaign settings.

And finally, our generic book this month isn't standalone at all. Valorian by Mary Herbert is a prequel to Dark Horse. Guess we get to see the backstory of yet another universe expanded upon.


With the new column, the new themed topics, and the new determination to actually cover kits in the magazine, this is a very strong issue, full of useful stuff that you can return to and use repeatedly. While it doesn't have any particular standout classic articles, the overall package is one of the best they've done since 2e started. Solid specific details, that's the way to move forward at this point. And maybe a bit more real world cultural stuff, as despite the billing, they spread themselves a bit too widely to really complete the african stuff. Hopefully Roger got some more articles, and'll parcel them out over the year. And if not, maybe this'll inspire the readers to send some more in. Not an impossible dream, is it.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 190: February 1993


part 1/6


124 pages. As the cover hints, it's time to go out on the ocean wave again. Although not that much, as it's only 2 connected features, barely worth calling a special. Still, better that than letting some crap ones in just to use as padding. Hopefully they'll have room for plenty of other interesting stuff in the issue instead.


In this issue:


Gnomes and halflings have to share a splatbook? Shows you the low regard people have for them :( Low regard, Gettit? ;) I prove my own point.


Letters: Some questions about Yamara. Roger goes to the source and gets answers that are a bit silly. But you wouldn't have it any other way, really.

A whole bunch of letters from people who did remember what the Thendar were. Roger is suitably chastened that other people know more about his magazine than him. I guess when you have to make deadline each month, you don't get much time to look back and reflect on the past.

This leads neatly into a request for people to make an index for the magazine themselves. Since you have so much free time and we don't. :p Cheeky muppet. Oh well, at least there's some money to be made here.

And finally, a correction by Lester Smith re one of their recent book reviews. Oh, cruel fate, that misattributes me so! Yeah, getting the recognition you deserve's a bitch.


Editorial: Ha. This month, Roger talks about the adventures that got planned, but never carried out. You spend hours and hours building a scenario, and then the players go the wrong way, or the group breaks up, and it all goes to waste. Sometimes you can reuse the work later, but others, the scenario is designed specifically around your player's quirks, and just one of them dropping out turns it into a mess. Such a pain. And then there are the idle fantasies for a game in a system you never get to run, which also gets quite a bit of attention here. There is a lot of goofy crap in here, and I can see why they wind up not happening. Roger does have one bit of good advice though. Don't hoard your ideas, talk about them. It increases the odds that you'll be able to bring them to fruition, for they might suggest modifications that you can bounce off, or they might like the idea enough to help you get a group together to actually play. Working alone is far more tedious and depressing than involving your friends. Another fairly entertaining and somewhat useful editorial that actually covers a topic they haven't done an article on.


Monsters of the deep: Not exactly a standard bestiary entry, here we have an odd grab-bag of new monsters and adaptions of existing ones, mostly using abbreviated statblocks. Giant eels, super otters ( :D ) giant turtles, colossal tadpoles and a whole bunch of variants upon the saurian and whale body forms. Whatever their origins, they're big scary sea monsters that can mess your ship right up, and quite possibly swallow you whole. They're the subject of many real world legends, including, of course, Nessie. Yes, the Loch Ness monster finally gets stats in Dragon! That's an amusing turnup for the books, and definitely ups my rating for this article. With both plenty of subtle humour and a good bibliography, this is a very readable article that manages to venture somewhere new for the magazine and give you directions on how to take a cryptozoological campaign further. I think this is a pretty good way to start an issue.


Deep beneath the waves: From a reasonably amusing upper to rather a downer, as we get an obituary for the writer of this article just before it. While not quite as sad as Paul Montgomery Crabaugh's death in '86, as they don't have a load of previous articles for us to get attached by, there is a very definite sense of wasted potential here. This is both pretty well researched, tackling the real world physical issues of going underwater, the fantastical solutions to those, and the magical creatures and weirdness that could be added down there for your adventurers to encounter. Metallic precipitation, geothermal flows, bizarre creatures, there's both challenges and treasures aplenty to be found down there. With giant tube worms and clams among the new monsters, this once again has slightly amusing elements that help sweeten the extensive footnotes and bibliography. As with the last article, this is pretty good, and together I think they do actually add up to a solid special feature. Just don't keep losing writers, or you'll never keep this up :) :(


The ecology of the actaeon: Yet another departure from usual Ecology protocol, we have a BD&D specific monster this month. That is fairly pleasing. Is Bruce's effort finally paying off? Anyway, in terms of actual format, as well as writing, this is a return to classic ecology style, revealing the nature and powers of the creature, and telling a little morality tale at the same time. Given all the powerful supernatural creatures protecting nature, you can barely collect firewood without running into them. I guess you need them to balance out the ridiculous number of apex predators D&D worlds also have to cope with. Anyway, this is a solidly entertaining, yet not particularly ground-breaking ecology. I do miss the days when Ed contributed a new one virtually every month, throwing new lights on creatures and filling in little bits of realmslore as well.
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 190: February 1993


part 2/6


Divide (VVVV) and conquer!: Never split the party, the first words in this article, and one of those lessons most teams learn pretty soon, especially if raised on a diet of horror movies. It makes you vulnerable, and results in players spending long periods of time with sod all to do. But from a plot point of view, sometimes it's the natural course of action to take, and then you need to figure out how to make it work. Fortunately, there are tricks to make it work better. Timekeeping is of course the critical one, as Gary knew well, and the rest of us hurriedly learned. Not that fudging to ensure characters have a greater chance of "co-incidentally" running into one-another again hurts in this kind of game. The other things are making the story interesting enough that people don't mind sitting around waiting for a bit, tailoring the adventures properly to the participating members of the party, proper use of cliffhangers, between session one-on-one interactions, letting players control NPC's, and figuring out how and where they're going to get back together. So plenty of advice I've seen before, a couple of bits I haven't, and quite a few valuable ideas I've often used on this subject missing. I think that adds up to a middling article overall, just high enough CR that I can eke out a few more XP from it.


The known world grimoire: As with last month, it's letters and economics in here. Not hugely interesting. Let's get a-saging.

Are you going to fill in all the locations in Thunder Rift? (not officially. We have to give your DM a chance to exercise some creativity.)

The Rules Cyclopedia is just too good and complete! (Honestly, no pleasing some people. If you want to keep things from the players, get the AD&D PHB instead)

The artwork on your new introductory products is frequently crappy, recycled and inappropriate! And Thunder rift is pointless! And they're too expensive too! You Suck! (How are they supposed to know? They're only N00bs. We want to dumb things down so new people can get in gently. Never mind that things weren't nearly as simplified in our greatest boom period. )

Was Robrenn influenced by the Asterix books (Hell yeah. In the original french too. Well done for spotting that one. )

Your map keys are incomplete. I'm confused! (Honestly, most of them should be common sense. How hard is that? :p)

I'm sad that the princess ark series has been half filler over the last half a year. (Sorry 'bout that. Reality is a complicated and annoying thing. )

You suck for increasing your margin sizes to save money! (Once again, would you rather we raised prices instead? No pleasing some people.)

The economics talk this month covers population growth (or decline, if you really mismanage it) and exploitation of natural resources. These are of course intertwined, for as the population grows, it'll want to clear woods and create new villages, and'll grow ever more capable of exploiting things like mines and farmland. Bruce introduces some more fairly simplified subsystems, that'll do the job as long as you don't examine them too closely. Meh. This is all a bit uncomfortable. I have to wonder how many of the complaining letters he actually agrees with, and is actually using this as a means of making sure other people know about the companie's current missteps. Or is that kind of political reverse psychology reading too much into it. I'm really not sure these days.


The marvel-phile: Looks like it's sagin' time in here too. What with the actual sage advice, plus the known world grimoire, and the letters and forums, this does seem a touch excessive.

Send me the game statistics of ABCDEFGHIJKLMNPOQRSTUVWXYZ characters! ( Statistics are a product, not a right. You'll have to wait for us to put them in books and magazines and then buy them like everyone else)

How can I get The Ultimate Powers Book? (Search me. It's out of print, and we ain't redoing it. (Note, do not literally search me, or we will be forced to taser you and inform the relevant authorities))

Send me a catalog of what's available! (Write to the right department! We are not going to do all the work for you. )

How does power absorption work? (In the comics, however the writers want it too. Don't expect your GM to be so generous with you. )

Why does wolverine need to put effort into slicing up a sentinel. (again, game balance. We have concerns they do not. )

How does endurance interact with martial arts (Martial arts is the great equalizer. A sufficiently well trained fighter can even take on the hulk in a superhero universe. )

How can assassins gain karma? ( By doing other stuff as well to work off their debt. )

Do you get a chance to dodge when the other guy shoots you (only if you haven't already used your action this round. Yes, it's so unfair.)

Which is tougher, Wolverine's bones and claws, or Thor's hammer. (Thor's hammer, but not by an insurmountable ratio.

How can street level heroes fight thugs with such a big multiple attacker penalty. (sufficient badassery. Simple as that. )

I don't want to play a superhero. What opposition can I face? (Steal batman's villains. Plenty of street level stuff around really.)
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 190: February 1993


part 3/6


TSR Previews moves back to the middle of the magazine. Ravenloft does pretty well for itself, with Van Richten's guide to the Lich, and Tapestry of Dark souls by Elaine Bergstrom. Some choose darkness, while others are trapped within it by the wrongdoings of others. Ravenloft welcomes and delights in tormenting them both.

The forgotten realms is also mixing game and novel harmoniously. Ruins of Myth Drannor opens up another boxed set superdungeon to give your players plenty of opportunities to level up .... or die. The Druid Queen completes Doug Niles' Druidhome trilogy. The Moonshaes restore peace and proper rulership. Until next time. :fade out to ominous music:

Dark sun tries to make an epic adventure to match the promise of the setting. DSE1: Dragon's crown gives you another chance to affect the world, that may or may not be railroaded to keep things from straying too far from the official history. Go on, let your PC's break out and become Dragons too.

Dragonlance continues to reprint it's glory days, with DLC2: Dragonlav(sic)ce classics, Vol 2. Aka original modules 6-9. Give us more money! Your gameline needs you!

Generic AD&D products do well for themselves. PHBR9: The complete book of gnomes and halflings sees this line start to run out of steam. They obviously don't think either little race has enough selling power on their own. How vaguely insulting. GA1: The murky deep takes us underwater to a lost city. Woo. Looks like they're having a resurgence at the moment. We also get another year's batch of collectable cards. They have obviously proved profitable as a regular release.

D&D gets The Knight of Newts. An adventure designed for a group to play even without a DM. I'm guessing it's pretty simple then, especially as it's only 16 pages.

Gamma world has another gadget book. GWA1:Treasures of the Ancients. How much will this stuff have changed from previous editions, given real world tech developments since the 70's?

And Warlords of Jupiter completes the Invaders of Charon trilogy. Buck and the 25th century logos are not mentioned at all. It's almost as if they're embarrassed about them. :p


The role of computers: Darklands is a particularly in depth medieval RPG, taking your characters from birth to death. This makes for an epic, but often difficult and grindy adventure. One for those willing to do lots of experimenting with character builds and open-ended exploring.

The ancient art of war in the air is a WWI wargame. Unusually for a flight game, it's largely overhead, and has a combination of formation and individual bits to challenge you. This'll require both strategic thinking and fast reflexes.

Goblins gets a short but positive review. Control the three goofy looking little creatures, each with their own unique skills to solve an array of puzzles. Plenty of humour and weird solutions to be found here. Flex those lateral thinking muscles.

Plan 9 from outer space ironically manages to be almost as bad as it's namesake, only without the camp pleasure value. It's just a tedious find the items to solve the puzzles adventure game, linear and dull. Unless you want to MST3K it in the forums, avoid.

Shinobi adds a bunch of new ninja tricks to it's repertoire. Not just a little dog, but a whole bunch of additional ninja become available as you complete the game, with their own tricks. Sounds like someone's taking lessons from mega man's school of reward design.

Alisa Dragoon also involves summoning the right creature for the job as you go through the game. Manage your blasty powers wisely, and beat all the monsters.

Spellcraft: Aspects of valor sees you building spells from scratch using an elemental based components system. Find components, buy them, experiment with them to see what can be done, and try to avoid dying. But even if you do, it's not the end, as you can escape from the underworld, and possibly find some cool rare items while there. The biggest problem comes from mixing your components in real time as the enemies approach, and getting off the spells before dying.


Forum: Thomas Vogt asks a very interesting question. What can you do to improve a sucky GM as a player. Yeah, that is one that could merit an article. Hopefully someone'll step up to that challenge in a few months time.

Paul Cardwell, Jr radiates his disapproval for the more hyperbolic elements of TTLG's argument against banning lead miniatures. There are genuine health risks, and you're being a bit petty simply due to personal investment. Can we just make a law that's good for people.

Cory Dodt finds that people are incorporating house rules from the AD&D computer games into their tabletop experience. You know, I have never strictly tracked material components or post death door recuperation times either. Chances are, they're not even thinking seriously about it. The system actually runs more smoothly if you cut corners.

William D. Sharpe III makes the slightly patronising suggestion that if you want to get more girls into roleplaying, you should just keep all the rules stuff behind the scenes and just actually roleplay. Cos maff is hard for girlz, hehehehe. :rolleyes:

Eyal Teler suggests that you make magic items with charges a good deal more common than permanent ones. That'll help quite a bit in keeping them from getting monty haulish in the long term, as they'll be regularly exhausting and cycling through items instead of accumulating ever more.

Alexander Dengler suggests the idea of a Ravenloft/Gamma World crossover. The mists seem to reach to all times and places, and you can incorporate a wide range of technologies. All are helpless against the Dark Powers.

Matthew Lyon talks about his worldbuilding experience as a new gamer. Not too surprisingly, he's used a hodgepodge of ideas from whatever he could afford to get his hands on. Perfectly normal. It's only once you have more ideas than you could ever use that you can really pick and choose and only incorporate an appropriately themed set.

Julien Hermitte likes to use film soundtracks to set the mood for his games. Those lyrics just get in the way. Classical music is good too, particularly the more bombastic Wagner stuff. You know, this is another topic we really haven't had enough of. For al the led zeppelin stereotypes, they didn't mention music once during the 70's. More please.

John M. Fairfield picks apart the earlier contributions saying psionicists are overpowered. They may not have many hard level limits, but the prerequisites and high psp costs on their nastiest powers keep them from being easy to use at lower levels. And don't forget the failure chances. Those can be pretty annoying in a pinch. It's particularly the case if you don't allow them insanely twinked ability score generating methods.
 

DMH

Master of Mutant Design
Validated User
Gamma world has another gadget book. GWA1:Treasures of the Ancients. How much will this stuff have changed from previous editions, given real world tech developments since the 70's?
When I only had the 4th edition books (which I started with), I thought it was a great supplement. Then I bought some eariler material. I would say 99% of the book is just updates from 1/2e. Not that the 5th and 6th editions were much better.

But you have to realize that GW tech was more advanced than Traveller and other sci-fi rpgs of days gone by. Trying to incorporate tech from Eclipse Phase, Lesser Shades of Evil or even Blue Planet would make significant changes to the setting (and possibly make the whole vibe impossible).
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 190: February 1993


part 4/6


Role-playing reviews: It's a GURPS special! My oh my. They have been busy, not only writing various genre supplements, but also licensing out a whole range of properties, many rather surprising. How better to prove that their system really does everything, and if you like, it could be the only game you ever need to learn. Mind you, it'll take a fair bit of effort and money to do that, but at least you're not trying to keep up with AD&D's supplement mill.

GURPS The prisoner is one that seems like it would be particularly hard to turn into a setting, given the surreal and sometimes contradictory nature of the show. But the designer manages it, partly by making sure the toolkitness of the whole thing is played up. Answers? Hah. It's more fun without them.

GURPS Callahan's crosstime saloon is a bit easier to convert, but ironically winds up duller because of it. And the humour part of the show is a bit neglected too. Some things, even the most generic of systems will struggle to model.

GURPS Middle ages 1 shows that they realized right away this topic needed more than one book. It focusses on the english side of history, feudalism and chivalry, legal developments, wars, everyday life details. But as with far too many GURPS books, it's just a load of details. It's up to you to turn that into a good campaign.

GURPS Camelot gets much the same result, with the tension between fantasy and history being if anything, greater. How do you make it all fit together? Up to you.

GURPS Old West gets the best review of their historical sourcebooks, for being full of easy fun plot hooks, and generally having a more playful approach. Rick also approves of the way the settler/native conflict is handled. Plenty of adventures to be had on both sides.

GURPS Terradyne is one of their few full original settings. It combines corporate dystopia on earth with frontier space exploration, giving us a nice contrast between old and new. Quite hard sci-fi, it focusses particularly well on the technological and economic developments of the setting. Sounds like the kind of thing I'd like.

GURPS Space atlas 4 is also setting heavy, but is a bit system light too. This makes it particularly easy to mine and convert to other games. Combined with the previous entries in the series, and you have a pretty substantial modular future atlas for characters to adventure in.


Novel ideas: As usual for the first instalment of this column of the year, it's time to see what books are coming out over the course of the year. As you's expect, they lead with their strongest lines. The realms is getting a good 8 books, including 3 Salvadore ones. Not for nothing is he the master hack. Dragonlance is getting 6 novels, plus a rerelease of an old favourite. The people have spoken, and they want poetry! Dark sun, Ravenloft and regular D&D are getting 3 books each. Ravenloft is even getting a hardback, despite being the one that's skipping the trilogies and bigger series. They must be doing particularly well for themselves. Ahh, the joys of horror bringing in a different demographic to exploit.

Course, it's not all good news, although they try and spin it all positively. Spelljammer is finishing the end of it's only series, and they have no plans for another one. They've given no hints what's coming after this year for the basic D&D line Similarly, the XXVc line is limping out it's final products on greatly reduced print runs. And the generic line is not only down to 4 books, the same as last year, but two of them are follow-ups of previously successful stories. They really do want to cut their risks in that department. Still, overall that's 30 books mentioned, one more than last year. On the surface it all looks pretty stable, unlike last year, there's few major changes in their lineup. Whether that will result in diminishing returns for sales yet I'm not sure. Anyone with inside knowledge here?


Sage advice: Where is Zalchara ( I dunno. But if you want Zakhara you turn south at Toril, and keep going until you get past the pretentious guys with the skyships, then take a 45 degree turn left. You can't miss it, since it is an entire continent. If it's not there, go back a hundred years and try again. If it's still not there, then it's been retconned, and you might as well play cards in limbo with all the people punched by superboy prime)

What's the level limit for halfling sha'irs (10)

What do rings of wizardry and other magical items that boost your memorization ability do for sha'irs (not a lot, in most cases. Like a mule with a spinning wheel, your best bet is to sell it on for a good price. )

What's with the reference to segments in Wall of Ash (Another case of the writer not keeping up to date with rules changes.

Why are descriptions of the Baazrag so contradictory (good question. Unfortunately, Skip doesn't have a good answer, so Skip will give you two mediocre answers instead. Hopefully that'll be satisfactory.)

Tinker gnomes have been nerfed by Tales of the Lance! (Yes. We're subtly trying to keep you from playing one, so groups don't have to deal with them as PC's. )

How much damage does a sashik do. (It's a bloody kender weapon, so Skip'll take the least favourable option. )

I don't understand the cleric spell lists (They do need a bit of clearing up. That is Skip's job, so Skip will do it )

Reorx and Sargonass' turning abilities are a bit odd (Not all evil gods like hanging around with undead. And is it so wrong for some gods to give alternate turning options? Things get very boring without variety. )

The dates on the calendars contradict each other again. ( Tracey! Margaret! Please report to Skip's office on the double. No excuses and no lallylagging. )

High level sword knights can't fill up their spell list in one go. (Yes. This is an intentional bit of design. Lets them have occasional access to high level spells without stepping on clerics toes. )

How many legs do displacer beasts have (6, unless some were chopped off. Or it could just be artist incompetence, as usual. )
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
Dragon Magazine Issue 190: February 1993


part 5/6


The game Wizards: Oh no. No, no no no no. Iiiiiiit's Volo! If you thought Elminster was irritating, you ain't seen nothing yet. Ed Greenwood reveals his new finely veined, not quite fully matured cheese on the public. The little gobshite gives them an excuse to revisit previously sourcebooked areas of the realms and give them a second going over. After exploring north, south east and west, introducing three new continents to Toril, they're starting to close in and eat their own tail. Come on, there's plenty of place still to explore, we don't need to go back to Waterdeep yet. And do we really need so much info on the eating habits of various places. I suppose there's still more in Ed's personal notes that'll never see the light of day, and they want to get them out somehow. I do wonder who suggested this part IC format though. Since Athas, Krynn, Ravenloft, Planescape and Mystara would all use it at various points in their life, it must have been pretty popular in the TSR offices. It probably got overused over the years, and this is definitely one of the signs of that. Not an article that fills me with warm and fuzzy feelings, to say the least.


Sounds of wonder and delight: Jeff Grubb follows in Ed's footsteps. In issue 123, Ed detailed the musical instruments of the Realms, now we get the same treatment applied to Zakhara. Most of their instruments are pretty clearly based on real world ones, but there's always a few weird variants. The vast majority of them are small enough to be portable, with stringed, wind and light percussion being the most popular families. Not too surprisingly, there's also magical variants. The nay of the Djinn, The Riqq of the Efreet, The 'ud of the Marids, The Rababah of the Dao and the Qanun of the spirits are a themed set of musical instruments. Each has a couple of minor powers when played alone, but if you can gather all 5, you can summon a genie army. This is obviously a big plot device to place in the campaign, and players and bad guys can compete to gather one, while genies try their hardest to make sure no-one ever does. I think that'd make a pretty decent central plot for an entire tv show, or at least a season, so despite the mundane aspects being a bit predictable, this is a pretty decent article.


Unique Unicorns: 'Ello 'ello. Wot 'ave we 'ere then? A full dozen variant unicorns, doing for them what previous articles have done for dogs, imps, dinosaurs and of course Dragons. Well, it's an ideal choice if they want to appeal to the female demographic more without being too obvious. And exactly what powers unicorn horns have differs from myth to myth anyway. That leaves them with room for quite a few variants, at least one for each alignment. Another fairly obvious one they haven't done yet, so yay.

Alicorns have a twisted horn, and all the usual powers plus charming and the ability to ride on air. This obviously makes them even harder to catch or kill.

Bay Unicorns deploy the dread power of shaky-cam to win battles against their enemies. :p Oh, and fire based magic too. They're not very nice creatures, and like to live in volcanic caves. Sounds like a nice surprise for people who think unicorns are all sweetness and light.

Black Unicorns are of course utterly eeeevil and will eat your flesh. They radiate silence, can both become invisible and generate darkness, and have poisonous horns. Way to bring on a cheap death. Poor spellcasters just won't know what to do!

Brown Unicorns read your mind and put people with hostile intent to sleep. Very faeish. I quite approve.

Cunnequines are shiny, and can turn undead and invert your alignment. Since they're good guys, they'll generally use that to make people change their ways for the better. Unicorn hunters really are biting off more than they can chew.

Faerie Unicorns are the perfect mount for pixies and the like. If their natural concealment and mind-control isn't enough, they can summon animals to help out. Good luck trying to keep them in a snare when the squirrels and bears are around.

Gray Unicorns are of course true neutral. In the interests of balance, they have that classic equalizer the ability to make you suffer any damage you inflict on them too. Once again the dramatic irony is strong in this one. Welcome to the justice zone, fae style.

Palomino Unicorns fill the LE alignment axis and have fire powers. They probably won't get along with Bay unicorns then. Natural rivals and all that.

Pinto Unicorns ejaculate shoot rainbows from their horns. How very very my little pony. They also generate illusions, making catching them a crapshoot between humiliation and death. Send all the twee lot to the Gray Waste.

Sea Unicorns are the equine equivilent of selkies, able to assume a narwhal like form or a horsey one. Like a disproportionate number of water monsters, they can control the weather, so expect ship-destroying storms if you mess with their herd.

Unisus are a crossbreed between unicorns and pegasi. Flutter Ponies! :fangirl squee!: Sorry, no avoiding that this is one of the most obvious cheese ideas evar.

Zebracorns take their camouflage abilities to a logical extreme by being able to shapeshift. They may even assume human form and walk among us. While not evil, they're as stubborn as natural zebras if you try riding them. They'll go when and where they wanna go.

As with the earlier sea monster collection, this is a nicely mythic collection that manages to both seem logically derived and still pull a few surprises, as well as having the just about right quotient of cheese for my tastes. I think this lot would be quite usable, really making people think twice about trying to hunt unicorns. Oh, the cautionary tales that would be told. Hee.
 
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